Despite having at least a few readers, I still have a really hard time calling myself a writer. That’s all about to change in a few months. I’m on the home stretch of editing, beta-reading and polishing a book I’ve been working on for about 18 months (though, I did put it down for a long stretch so the time frame is inflated). While topics are what I cover here, it is a basically a tight, organized version with nearly 100% new writing versus some blogger’s books that just republished blog posts. Anyways, stay tuned, I plan to be giving out some review or free copies to regular readers or bloggers.
Despite my self-assessment, I have actually been writing for my own audience for over 20 years. I wrote spiral bound journals with my perceptions on life for a long time starting at around 16 years old, switching eventually to Word saved on 3.5″ floppy disks in college and post-college. Looking back, it really colors in the lines of who I was and what I was thinking at that snapshot in life. Encouraging my kids to journal about their own experiences for their own future selves will be an important educational point I will make as they get older. We already have these youth Three-Year Journals that we go over with them to encourage taking snapshots on life.
Blogging in many ways is just a natural extension of journaling for your own use, at least if you have a message others find entertaining or educational. So if you’ve thought of writing a blog, especially if you are married, here are a few thoughts:
- Have something to say – While I am certainly of throwing out random shit posts from time to time, I usually try to have a message of either entertainment or education or if nothing else, a glimpse into my life. In presenting my own life, trials and tribulations, I expect others that others are going through some of the same things to relate and hopefully they realize they aren’t the only boat in the ocean. I occasionally re-read some of my posts, and while I may not think they are all awesome, I still like reading them and mostly find some value with their message. In a similar fashion, I still enjoy re-reading journal entries from when I was 22. If you are writing about your day to day random shit with no real point, people will stop reading. Give some value or some minor nuggets of wisdom and people will come back.
- Write frequently – The biggest thing for bloggers is to basically write every day, and publish at least 3-4 times per week at a minimum for months on end. If you haven’t done it, writing this often and coming up with new things to say is hard. We’ve all seen those bloggers that start out hot and heavy and flame out. Or those that only write every month or two. Sure, you write for yourself, but when you put yourself out there and develop an audience, you are also writing for others.
- Make sure your spouse is on board – I didn’t really know where I was going or even what I was doing when I started my first blog (edited to be just a placeholder). I just started secretly writing about life, venting and being completely anonymous. Even my wife was unaware of this endeavor. It felt rotten writing and being open to anonymous strangers without being open to her. I started fresh here, investing a small amount into hosting this site, and got her on board with what I was doing. It was like a weight lifted, and while she doesn’t often weigh in or comment, she does read every day and writing this has really brought us together. I may temper a few things from time to time, but in general, I still write about pretty open or raw things; stuff we wouldn’t want our friends or coworkers necessarily reading.
- Read. A lot! – How do you generate content on a daily basis? You do so by having a lot of information in your brain, and to best generate threads of a post or ideas you need to read. A lot! And not just blogs and websites (though I do read a shit-ton of those every day), but actual books. I probably read about a book every week or two on any number of random subjects that often do, but sometimes don’t, have something to do with the topics I write about here. For example, I am currently reading a combo of audiobook of Cockpit Confidential (a pilot’s inside look at the airline industry – it’s ok, a library check-out) and hard-copy book of The Dangerous Book for Boys (highly recommended for dudes, especially dudes with boys). Other books I have recently read or are in my queue are The Secret, The 4-Hour Workweek, Awaken the Giant Within ; and fiction (all final books of different series – all of which are awesome in their own way): Dust (Silo Saga) , Warbound (The Grimnoir Chronicles) and Emperor of Thorns.
- Be Yourself – If you try to be something you are not, you’re going to come off as disingenuous. I admire those writers with a creative voice, with great stories of all their adventures full of prose and descriptive language, who paint a great picture so you feel you are there. Me, I am nearly entirely left brained so have next to no creative bones in my body. Instead, I take my rough wood linear carving and present that every day. It will never by a granite carved statue of impeccable beauty, but that’s not what I am going for. I go for utility with the meat and potatoes that every-betaman can benefit from and relate to. That’s who I am, and I usually (not always) try to simply be myself. Negative or positive reaction, it doesn’t matter. Just be yourself in your writing and write about what you know about or what you are experiencing.
- Read and participate in peer’s blogs – Finally, whoever is in your genre is not your competition. We are all in this thing together and many of us just want to raise the education and enjoyment in other people’s lives. I frequently promote great writing that I come across and sometimes get linked from others. When you write, you enter a community that you may not even know existed. While I don’t really feel like I’m in the “Cool Crowd” (I have never felt I was in that group in my entire life), I still feel a connection to that group and feel comfortable commenting. Going back to the “be yourself” item, just participate in the community without any expectations and you know what? You’ll make some new friends, get some new perspective and likely increase readership organically.
To wrap this post up, I am just finishing up Stephen King’s (a favorite author of mine since I was about 14 years old – a total aside, but maybe my favorite story of all time is his The Long Walk novelette that was originally written as his Richard Bachman pen name and included in the The Bachman Books that also include must reads of Rage and The Running Man – end aside) On Writing: A Memoir Of The Craft. Like most books, I got it from the library. It is a non-fiction description of how he came up through the ranks, the poverty before he struck gold and some great thoughts on learning to write and be an author. This is seriously a must-read for any aspiring author or blogger. I’m actually alternating between writing this post and reading the book, enjoying a glass of wine with a dog on my lap while my family is asleep all around me (they fell asleep during movie night – we watched How to Train Your Dragon). A few interesting quotes from the book I thought I’d share for you writers out there:
- “write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open” [AMD note: Translation: get all the details in there along with asides and color commentary in first draft. As you go through self editing, remove extraneous information to clean it up for your audience. Great advice!]
- “You can approach the act of writing with nervousness, excitement, hopefulness, or even despair – the sense that you can never completely put on the page what’s in your mind and heart. You can come to the act with your fists clenched and your eyes narrowed, ready to kick ass and take down names. you can come to it because you want a girl to marry you or because you want to change the world. Come to it any way but lightly. Let me say it again: you must not come lightly to the blank page.”
- [AMD: on muse, King uses the masculine pronoun “he” instead of “she”] “He may not be much to look at, that muse-guy, and he may not be much of a conversationalist (what I get out of mine is mostly surly grunts, unless he’s on duty), but he’s got the inspiration. It’s right that you should do all the work and burn all the midnight oil, because the guy with the cigar and the little wings has got a bag of magic. There’s stuff in there that can change your life.” [AMD note: he basically is saying you take an idea and start running with it and building off of it, even if you are grinding at first. At some point, if it’s in you to begin with, your Muse will provide that spark of energy that inspires and spins things beyond what your thinking, rationale mind can create]
Anyways, I hope you find your own voice if you’re a writer, or find the voice you are listening for in the ‘sphere. Cut out those other voices and websites that you don’t like or annoy you (I finally de-linked some bookmarks I checked just because they got a rise out of me), find the positive readings that inspire or motivate and find something that resonates with you.